N.Y. lawyers charged over Molotov cocktail to plead guilty in October – Reuters

Firefighters work on a NYPD police car set on fire as protesters clash with police during a march against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, U.S., May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

  • Prosecutors seek Oct. 7 plea hearing for Colinford Mattis and Urooj Rahman
  • Lawyer for Rahman says they will plead guilty to single count

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(Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Thursday requested an Oct. 7 hearing for two New York lawyers charged with attacking an empty police vehicle with a Molotov cocktail during a protest over George Floyd’s death to plead guilty after they struck a plea deal earlier this week.

Colinford Mattis, who was a Pryor Cashman associate but was suspended after his arrest, and public interest attorney Urooj Rahman had faced a mandatory-minimum sentence of 45 years in prison and a maximum of life if they had proceeded to trial on the charges against them in Brooklyn.

Suspended Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis and public interest attorney Urooj Rahman are pictured in photos taken by U.S. authorities following their arrests in New York on May 30, 2020.  U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York/Handout via Reuters
Suspended Pryor Cashman associate Colinford Mattis and public interest attorney Urooj Rahman are pictured in photos taken by U.S. authorities following their arrests in New York on May 30, 2020. U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York/Handout via Reuters

But prosecutors in a letter confirmed reports that the two lawyers had accepted a plea offer. Paul Shechtman, Rahman’s lawyer at Bracewell, said they will plead guilty to a single count of possessing or making a destructive device.

That charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, though the ultimate sentence will be decided by U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan. The other six counts against them will be dismissed.

Sabrina Shroff, a lawyer for Mattis, declined to comment.

Mattis, a corporate associate at Pryor, was furloughed in April 2020 as part of a COVID-19 pandemic-related cost-cutting measure and was suspended following his arrest in May 2020. Rahman represented tenants in the Bronx as a public interest lawyer.

Prosecutors accused Rahman of throwing a bottle containing gasoline into an empty police vehicle through an already-broken window and attempting to distribute Molotov cocktails to other people, then fleeing in a minivan driven by Mattis.

The incident came amid protests in Brooklyn over the death of Floyd, a Black man, who died in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer, an incident that sparked widespread protests against racism and police violence.

The lawyers were charged during the Trump administration, which emphasized tough-on-crime policies, but their plea offers came under the new Biden administration, which has pledged criminal justice reform and to address systemic racism.

Supporters of the lawyers have called the U.S. Justice Department’s aggressive prosecution of the two lawyers an attempt to stifle dissent against police brutality and have contended they were overcharged.

The case is U.S. v. Mattis et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No. 20-cr-203.

For the United States: Ian Richardson and Jonathan Algor of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York

For Mattis: Sabrina Shroff of Law Offices of Sabrina P. Shroff

For Rahman: Paul Shechtman of Bracewell and Pete Baldwin of Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath

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N.Y. lawyers charged over Molotov cocktail hope to finish plea talks soon

Nate Raymond reports on the federal judiciary and litigation. He can be reached at nate.raymond@thomsonreuters.com.

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